Practice Writing Well

As I’ve considered what I want to accomplish this year, I dug deeper into the desire to write more. I love to write. Expressing your ideas clearly and succinctly is challenging, but to also express them well and in a way that readers will find interesting adds more difficulty. I also love the challenge of reducing writing to the most efficient skeleton possible without a loss of meaning. I think you truly get it right when you can use fewer words, yet the meaning behind them becomes clearer as a result. I’m not very good at it yet, but it’s something that I think comes with a lot of practice.

Blogging and maintaining an online magazine help with this goal, as they help clarify my thoughts and to express myself clearly and efficiently. My goal while writing on my blog or for Sell with WP is to make sure that my message is understood in exactly the way that I mean it to be. However, I often require far more words than are truly needed to achieve this goal and don’t always meet it anyway.

Regardless, the regular practice in writing and self-expression has been valuable, but there’s a ways to go. I think I struggle to write with my own voice at times and to be as efficient as possible in my writing. I also have a long history in writing scientifically (as a Chemistry major – who’d have thought?). As Mark Twain famously said:

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

Sometimes I’m writing on a deadline and don’t have time to edit my work to my satisfaction, and technical writing doesn’t often lend itself to creating pristine prose. Aside from those excuses, I’ve also found that I like to leave most of my blogging unedited on this site so that I get a sense of growth as I go back and read older material.

So why continue to give reasons as to why I find it difficult to write well? Because I want to commit to doing it better, which I think means setting aside more time to write my own thoughts or writing fiction. I was very much inspired by George Orwell’s thoughts on Politics and the English Language, which forced me to realize how often people (especially me) dilute the potency of the written word by being timid about what we’re trying to say, or intentionally obscuring our meaning to encourage acceptance of our views.

As an aside, this exchange I had with someone who was upset about premium products we sell happened shortly after, which cracked me up. At one point, the reviewer says “…it is not a lie either” rather that just saying “It’s true,” because he’s loathe to admit that the point I brought up was correct and the original review is dead wrong. This kind of “political” talk has no business existing because the writer intentionally obscures his meaning rather than letting his words convey the meaning as words are meant to.

So what does this mean for the future? Writing fiction helps me practice being creative while shedding the scientific voice to which I default for factual writing, but can sometimes make me feel that I’m using a lot of words to say nothing at all (not to mention that I break far more grammar rules). I think the art of writing well comes when you can write a descriptive passage, then reduce it to one or two sentences without losing effect. I think the only way to you get there is by reading quality writing, and by practicing yourself. Obviously, this is going to require a time commitment on my part to practice in addition to all of the other writing I do.


Photo credit: Antonio Litterio, CC BY-SA 3.0 license

I’ll also have to practice using the active voice and being as direct as possible in word selection rather than hiding my meaning behind overused phrases or poor word choice. I think my recognition of the improvements needed is an improvement in itself, but that it also shows me how much room I have to grow as a writer.

So with that said, how did I do by using this post for practice?